End of an Error

December 7, 2018 Comments Off on End of an Error

Continuing my tradition of a blogging holiday, it did occur to me that a serious wrinkle in the Force has bubbled up. It’s the formal notification I received last week announcing the end of the FTR.

Dave Jaeger’s French Toast Ride has been going on so long that no one remembers when it started. That’s partially because it was a long time ago but mostly because those involved are suffering severe memory deficits. DJ pegs it at about twenty years ago; I have only been doing it for ten years or so. It’s an invitation ride that was originated as a tune-up for the road racing season. Historically, as if anything related to FTR deserves the word, it came the weekend before Boulevard Road Race.

That epic battle was scrapped from the race calendar a couple of years ago. SoCal now has no legitimate road races, and only a couple that even pretend. Likewise, the formerly fit and hungry riders who queued up in Ventura County for the FTR’s 117-mile romp up hill and down dale are now a bunch of soggy, saggy, worn-out old shoes.

And that’s the fit ones.

The roll call of riders now is so decrepit that it resembles a funeral procession more than a bike ride. Flatback Harry hasn’t drilled it on the 101 in so many years that no one can even remember what it felt like, and it doesn’t help that his spine is about as flat now as bristlecone pine. DJ himself putters around the neighborhood streets in Manhattan Beach on his bike, putters in his garden, putters in his garage, and, rumor has it, even put-ters on the golf course.

Whatever he does, the days of yore when he could be counted on to slay all but Konsmo and G$ on the slopes of Balcom Canyon are long gone. He now hires a daycare assistant to bundle him into the handi-care van and lug him to the top. Sad days, indeed. The only truly reliable FTR old shoes are Shon Holdthetree, who still regularly runs into the taco cart in Santa Maria, and Bull, who prepares for the FTR with by cleaning out the Mexican food buffet with the vigor that he always has.

This last edition of the FTR, already tinged with the saccharine nostalgia of old people reminiscing fondly about how good they never were, promises to be so far from epic that even the long-extinct dinosaurs such as Tumbleweed have thrown their hats in the ring. We can expect regularly spaced defibrillators, crash carts, and matronly nurses to gently tie down the gurney straps as each worn out old shoe muddles his way back to the post-ride feast.

The FTR is dead, long live the FTR.

END

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The art of non-blogging

December 6, 2018 § 3 Comments

I’ve been on a non-blogging vacation now for several days. Every day I insist that I’m not going to blog, so I don’t. But then, a little bit later in the day, it seems like it would be pretty easy to knock one out.

So although technically it’s not blogging, I do blog just a little bit.

A “technical blog” is one that involves extensive research, planning, focus groups, long bike rides in bad weather, and an analysis of cycling trade magazines. Technical blogs require verified sources, reliable information, and important new insights to the world of cycling in general and in specific the galaxy of cycling in the South Bay.

In other words, I’ve never written one.

The word “blogger” is kind of interesting. It derives from the Greek word “Blogae,” which means “huge waster of time and general numbskull.” It is very different from the words “journalist” and “writer,” which connote thoughtfulness, talent, skill, and professionalism. When you say that someone is a blogger you really mean that they aren’t good enough to get paid to write, or that no one except Mom reads what they write, which is mostly the same thing. When you say someone has a blog it’s kind of like saying they have an (unwashed) armpit. Everyone, with no practice at all, can have one and at some point in their lives invariably does.

I don’t know if the pejorative connotations come from the sound of the word, that is, “blogger” sounds vaguely like “booger” or “blooper.” Maybe the connotation comes from the fact that of all the media invented since the beginning of time, none is as vacuous as the blog.

Upon reflection it really makes sense to knock off blogging for a bit, so this is absolutely, positively the last one I’m doing until the end of my blogging vacation. Really. I’m not kidding around.

END

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Don’t Do-It-Yourself

December 5, 2018 § 4 Comments

Lots of things have changed since I first got a sporty bike. One of them was that back in those old days I couldn’t work on my bike because I was an idiot. When anything broke or got out of adjustment I would hurry down to Freewheeling and Uncle Phil would fix it while Uncle Jack looked on and commented on the state of the union, the state of the pro cycling scene, and the state of the bike shop.

Nobody ever made me feel like an idiot; it was self-understood that anyone who couldn’t adjust a derailleur or brakes or swap out a crank or brake cables or a chain was a congenital idiot.

Plus no one wanted to offend you directly because if you stood around long enough you would eventually buy stuff. The bike shop used to be a place where people hung out because they didn’t have phones or Internets or any information other than what they could glean out of Uncles Jack & Phil. That’s another reason we respected our elders. They had info and they weren’t sharing unless you sucked up to ’em just right.

No one ever offered how to show you how to fix or repair anything because you were an idiot, a customer, and likely to ruin it and blame it on them.

The only exception was truing stands. “Love to sell truing stands,” Uncle Phil always said.

“How come? Is wheelbuilding easy?”

“Fiendishly difficult; takes years.”

“Then why do you like to sell them?”

“Cause the idiots always fuck up the wheels and then bring them to us to fix. Best way to sell new wheelsets is to sell truing stands.”

New levels of incompetence

Nowadays I am still a first-rate Not Do-It-Yourself dude; I cannot fix anything that doesn’t require Old No. 72. But unlike then, when I could only not fix a few things, all of which were mission critical, today I can’t fix about a thousand things. Then, I knew what was mission critical, i.e. everything. Now I’m not so sure so I assume it’s everything

And what’s worse, I’m not the only Not-Do-It-Yourselfer. A whole bunch of other people, people who used to be able to fix bikes pretty good, are similarly stymied when it comes to bike repair.

Built-in idiocy is a key point to new bike stuff. Used to, you could straighten a frame by tying it to a tree, hooking it to your bumper, and peeling out. At least I think that’s how they did it, which doesn’t work so hot anymore with carbon. The only way you can fix carbon nowadays is to have the last name Lonergan.

I suppose it’s all for the best, though. By not knowing how to fix anything I can spend more time on the things that matter, like not wearing a helmet in the shower. Now that is mission critical.

END

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Old No. 72, for when the going gets tough.

Packing list

December 4, 2018 § 3 Comments

You know how I said I was gonna take a break from blogging? Just kidding.

I mean, I really was going to, but then I realized that I had some information about travel that I absolutely had to share with my two subscribers and four freeloaders. Here it is:

It’s important to pack well. I believe in traveling with lots of stuff so that you never run out of anything. Better to have waaaaaay tooooo much than too little. Because if you run out of stuff it can be serious.

That’s why I keep a checklist and follow it carefully before I travel. For example, I’m going to China, which is a country. You never know what you will need in a place like China because it is very wild and remote and far from In-N-Out, so you have to be sure to take everything. I’m including my China list in case you ever go to China for a couple of weeks. If you follow this list you’ll have everything you need. More than everything, actually.

The downside is that you will have significant baggage and probably a hernia from carrying all this stuff, but that is life.

  1. Itinerary
  2. Hotel info
  3. Passport
  4. Sweater
  5. Coat
  6. Hoodie
  7. Cap
  8. Credit card
  9. Cash
  10. Book
  11. Wristwatch
  12. Underwear x 3
  13. Socks x 3
  14. T-shirt x 3
  15. Pants
  16. Notebook
  17. Pen
  18. Camera and charging cord
  19. Toothbrush
  20. Toothpaste
  21. Floss
  22. Razor
  23. Shaving cream
  24. Shaving balm

Things to buy:

  1. Postcard
  2. Tea
  3. Map

END

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Even bloggers need a vacation

December 3, 2018 § 1 Comment

My favorite whine is a 2011, vinted in January of that year, and it goes like this: “I’m gonna start a blog!”

Going on nine years and an average of 270 posts a year, I’m starting to feel like a worn old old shoe. And if you look at my teeth, it’s hard to deny that I look like one, too.

I went to the dentist today and got my teeth sandblasted, which took off the first three layers of coffee scunge that accretes due to my 12-cups-a-day habit, but I still feel like a worn out old shoe despite the new shiny sparkle.

As a result I’ve decided to take a vacation. You won’t be hearing from me for  a few days as I go on complete radio silence. As Christopher Robin said, “Bisy Backson.”

END

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Work together!

December 2, 2018 § 1 Comment

Cyclists often have a conflicted relationship with law enforcement. This is because law enforcement often does not give so much as one-tenth of a broken fuck about cyclists. They often don’t know the law, don’t care about the law, and have even been known to willfully ignore it to the detriment of the cyclist.

My best worst memory was having a Hayes County sheriff’s deputy outside of Buda pull his service revolver and point it at my head as I tried to escape by riding off in a bar ditch. I fell over so he didn’t have to kill me for failing to pull over.

But it’s not always that way. There are cops out there who know the law, and even more unicorn-ish, cops who actually cycle.

One of those cops is officer Fran Sur. And he’s the classic example of why it matters to have law enforcement on your side.

Last week on the NPR an apparently crazed and/or insane and/or drug-addled and/or drunken driver came close to mowing down the group. He then flipped a u-turn and had a second go, which thankfully came to naught.

Officer Sur, who works for the LAX PD, was immediately on the scene and helped apprehend the suspect. It’s not the first time he has gone above and beyond to make sure that cyclists are respected on Westchester Parkway. An avid and dedicated triathlete (forgiven, dude), and member of Big Orange, he’s an example of what happens when cops and cyclists are one and the same.

Nor is he the only one. Many cops ride, a few of them race, and they are dedicated to making sure that the laws are fairly enforced, not just against cyclists, but against drivers, too.

END

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Staring down the barrel

December 1, 2018 § 13 Comments

Every year about now I get an email from a friend, a nice “attaboy” for my whatever-th year of sobriety. The friend has been on the straight and narrow for 34 years; I’m still on the freshly paved and lightly trodden fourth, now entering the fifth.

One of the bad things about ‘fessing up that you have a drinking problem is that even when you quit, it follows you. Of course as the years pass fewer people know about it and so it becomes more like a secret about your past, and the last thing you want to do is bring it up because, heck, many/most of your new friends will never even know it was a thing, and some of them, when they find out, will think you are ____________ (add pejorative here).

I dislike talking about sobriety, actually, but not because I’m afraid of what people might think about my character. I’m mostly afraid that it sounds preachy. Fact is, I don’t care if you drink, smoke, or whatever.

I’m also afraid that it sounds fake. What is four years compared to thirty-four? I’m well aware that the line between sobriety and drunkenness is no wider than the edge of a beer glass, and how’s it gonna look if I post a fancy “LOOK AT MY AWESOME SOBER SELF YO!” today, and wind up in the gutter tomorrow?

Not too good, that’s how.

Knowing other drunks who have sobered up, I also know that I got off easy. One buddy listened to my story and raised an eyebrow. “Dude,” he said. “you were a fuckin’ Cat 5, if that. More like a cruiser bike with a coaster brake.”

But then I think about the friend who takes the time to send me those annual emails. She doesn’t praise me or tell me I’m awesome or congratulate me for being special. She just says, “Hey, I notice, and good job, wanker.” Or something like that.

If it weren’t for the people like her, and they mostly know who they are, I never would have quit. They never preached but they never hid the story, no matter how many decades ago they sobered up.

And then I think about the tiny handful of people who have reached out to me in the last four years and confessed that they too are drunks, and that because of something I’ve said or done they too have decided to sober up, sometimes for a few months, sometimes for good. And THEN I think that for every one of those people, maybe there are one or two others who say nothing but, after reading this blog or listening to me blather, simply get their shit together.

Even one person kicking this bad habit is worth opening up this old wound, which isn’t old at all; in fact, it still oozes every time I pass a bar, smell beer, or walk down the liquor aisle in the supermarket … which, sorry to admit, I do. Destruction and salvation are such close neighbors.

To top it off, I hate anniversaries, especially this one, because a year doesn’t have any more significance than a day, today, which is pretty much the only day I’ve got. And unless I have it completely wrong, that’s the only day you have, too.

END

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